Free Game

A danky dive bar, around 11:00 p.m. on a Friday night. A group of ordinary young women sits around a table, talking amongst themselves and trying to decide what they will each sing for karaoke. They're dressed in sweaters and jeans, the outfits they've been wearing all day. It's cold outside. They are practical and comfortable. None of them are single; they are just out to enjoy each other's company. But none of this matters, really. Isn't it sad that I feel it necessary to comment on their outfits?

One of the women is left alone at the table while the others leave to use the restroom, smoke, order drinks, or whatever they all need to do. She doesn't make eye contact with anyone in the room. She is purposefully scowling because she feels the eyes of a stranger on her. Don't engage.

Maybe she's cynical, but she's been here before. Her boyfriend is not always around; they are a long-distance couple. If he was there she wouldn't have to deal with being uncomfortable. When he's there no one makes her uncomfortable. When he's there she isn't free game.

A man approaches her.

"Do you know any brunettes who would want a shot around here?" he asks. She says no. He continues to ask, and she continues to refuse. "Who taught you to be so mean?" he says, pestering her, in her face, so close she can feel him touching her side.

"Get away from me! I don't know you! You are making me uncomfortable!"

He keeps trying to salvage his moment. Surely she is playing hard-to-get. "Do you have a boyfriend?"

Thinking this might finally be her way out, since she is physically blocked into a corner and has no literal way out, she tells the stranger that yes, she has a boyfriend.

Of course he has a line for this. "So tell me..." he begins, whispering close. She is raging with fury, feeling unsafe, wanting to go home. "Does he treat you right?"

If he was here, he would be treating you to your face on the floor, she thinks to herself. But instead she erupts with a string of profanities, yelling at him that her life is none of his business, telling him to get out of her face, telling him she doesn't want him and to leave her alone.

His final attempt: "You're gonna have to hit me to get me out of your face."

She wants to, so bad, but this asshole would probably get off on it. Finally her friends return and it's 6 ferocious feminists against 1 mysoginistic male, and he leaves the table. But he's not done yet, because he has his dignity. He was refused and he can't accept it. He spends the next hour making obscene gestures towards the women, his friend is now involved, and they mutter about how crazy those bitches are.

For her, it's not over either. She still has to walk to her car, go home to an empty house, stay awake in bed mulling over how unfair and disgusting it all is. She will feel unsafe until she wakes up the next morning.

She still has to see this again and again, trying new ways to talk herself out of the same scenarios. Ignore them. Defeat them with intelligence. Defeat them with laughter. Defeat them with friends.

"Bitch, why you walkin' so fast?"

Men stare. Cars honk. Someone has an installed "cat-call" siren on their vehicle; that's new. She welcomes a simple smile, and it makes her day. But then it's ruined by another rude comment the next day.

She wonders when it will ever end.


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